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Pam Bondi 9-6-2017

Pam Bondi takes on price gougers

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Attorney General Pam Bondi has declared war on price-gouging as Hurricane Irma continues its trek toward the state.

Bondi, who met with reporters Wednesday evening at her Tallahassee price-gouging call center, said staffers have logged roughly 1,500 complaints since she activated the state’s hotline at (866) 9-NO-SCAM on Monday. She also asked Floridians to report price-gouging by going to her website.

“State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities—such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment—needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency,” her office said in a press release earlier this week.

Most complaints are coming from South Florida over inflated costs for food, bottled water and ice, she said. Over 100 were on overpriced gasoline.

Bondi personally had chats with, among others, the world’s largest Internet-based retailer. “I’m losing my voice from calling all these people,” she said. Some examples:

American Airlines: After speaking with Bondi, the airline agreed to cap one-way flights out of South Florida at $99 and waive pet fees. This comes despite the fact that Bondi doesn’t have jurisdiction over airline ticket prices; the federal government does.

— Delta Air Lines: That airline agreed to freeze Florida fares at no more than $399 and waive ticket change fees and pet fees. “I have a direct line to them,” she said.

— Home Depot: The home improvement chain, which set up a “command center” in Atlanta, agreed to freeze bottled water prices at $2.97 a case.

— Amazon: The Seattle-based company, after complaints of rampant price-gouging by third-party sellers, agreed to “manually scrub” inflated items from its website and suspended a dozen sellers for price-gouging. “I have Amazon on speed dial right now,” Bondi said.

State law allows Bondi to go after merchants who charge “unconscionable prices” with civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations in a 24-hour period.

“And I can also—and will—destroy their reputations,” she added.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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